European Commission and Hogan Lovells Launch Landmark EU Report on Trade Secrets

LONDON, 13 JANUARY 2012 - Today the European Commission has released the results of a European Union (EU) wide study on trade secrets, which uncovers significant differences in the law across Europe and how it is enforced. 

Hogan Lovells, with the assistance of other firms, has spent over six months compiling a report for the European Commission, which analyses how trade secrets are protected under the national laws of each of the 27 Member States. This is the first study of its kind to cover the law in all Member States.

The research has revealed major differences across the EU in what can be protected and what the courts can or will do to enforce rights.

• For example, in some countries misuse of a trade secret is treated as a criminal act punishable by a prison sentence or a fine.  The level of applicable fine demonstrates how differently individual States view the importance of trade secrets; fines can vary from as little as €50 to €30,000 or more. 

• In other countries only civil remedies are available and in some cases the court procedures mean that they provide only limited relief.  And in one or two countries there is simply no basis for any effective remedy.

Sarah Turner, of Counsel at Hogan Lovells and co-author of the Trade Secrets Report with consultant Robert Anderson, said:

"The differences in protection across the EU mean that businesses trading in some parts of Europe are in danger of losing significant revenue to their competitors and opportunists. Investors in industry, particularly those interested in innovation and technology, are more willing to invest in countries where they believe that their secrets are adequately protected from misuse or misappropriation."

Robert Anderson, consultant in the London office said:

"Trade secrets are an increasingly important area to business providing protection for the investment of time and money and research and development that are difficult to protect by other means.  The need for adequate protection has become even more important today because technology allows the simple and quick reproduction of documents and their transmission.

"Despite the fact that trade secrets are often extremely valuable (think of the Coca Cola recipe), this is an area of law which has been overlooked in Europe.  This is in contrast to the US which has developed both a Uniform Trade Secrets Act to codify the law across the different States and the Economic Espionage Act which makes certain types of trade secret theft a crime punishable by severe penalties ."

About the report
The trade secrets report is one of two separate reports - one focusing on trade secrets and the other on parasitic copying. The reports were compiled with the assistance of Hogan Lovells European network of specialist intellectual property lawyers as well as other specialist contacts of the firm in each Member State. The reports focus on the civil law primarily but comments on the criminal law where this is important in particular Member States.
About Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells is a leading global law firm providing business-oriented legal advice and high-quality service across its exceptional breadth of practices to clients around the world.

"Hogan Lovells" or the "firm" is an international legal practice that includes Hogan Lovells International LLP, Hogan Lovells US LLP and their affiliated businesses.

The word "partner" is used to refer to a member of Hogan Lovells International LLP or a partner of Hogan Lovells US LLP, or an employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualifications, and to a partner, member, employee or consultant in any of their affiliated businesses who has equivalent standing. Where case studies are included, results achieved do not guarantee similar outcomes for other clients.

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